PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 December, 1999, 12:00am

Many schools have received a lot of money from the Government, so that they can buy computers and develop IT education facilities.

Some schools have even been able to get more IT funding by applying to the Quality Education Fund. However, I wonder how many schools are really able to make full use of the resources that are made available to them.

One problem is that many teachers, especially elderly ones, are afraid of computers. They are unwilling even to press the on button on a machine. Also, some schools want teachers to use computers at all times. However, sometimes, something can be done more efficiently and faster by hand than using a mouse and keyboard.

Teachers might find themselves having to spend all their time supervising students on computers rather than actually teaching and this is bad for the pupils and a waste of resources. Such a waste undermines what IT is meant to achieve. Sometimes it may be more efficient in a classroom to revert to the chalk and blackboard. Computers should be an aid to learning, but they are no replacement for the craft of teaching.

It is also important to determine which is the appropriate software for different levels of education. What works in secondary school, will not be appropriate for kindergartens or primary classes. Everyone just seems to talk about Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as if there were no suitable alternatives. Not so long ago, it was felt that building an appropriate network was expensive and required experienced technicians. Yet now, the Government seems to expect ordinary teachers from secondary, or even primary schools, to be able to become, almost overnight, network builders, administrators, managers and operators.

If such a feat was possible, there would be no need to have computer degree courses in universities.

There is no doubt that IT can help make teaching more effective and interesting.

Students prefer learning by reading words and seeing instructive animation on their computer screens, than by reading a textbook. However, IT will only be used efficiently and to maximum effect, if the administration provides more training courses for the teachers, rebuilds the syllabuses of all subjects, develops more suitable teaching software, and learns from the experience of other countries which have introduced IT into their schools. Only with these measures can we ensure that the computer resources given to schools are used in the right way.

It is important for the Government to set up a good monitoring mechanism, to ensure that taxpayers' money spent on IT education is not being wasted.